The last day

A reflection for Maundy Thursday
John 13.1–17,31b–35

Today is Maundy Thursday. The word Maundy comes from the Latin ‘mandatum’, commandment, as this is the day on which Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment: “that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another (John 13.34). This day is the last day of Jesus’ life as a free man. After his last supper with his friends, when he washes their feet, breaks the bread and blesses the wine, Jesus will go out to pray. It is here that he is betrayed by Judas and taken by the authorities to be crucified the next day.

Modern Brazilian Painting of the Last Supper (2013), 'Christ and ...I suspect that for many of us this year, the thought of death and dying has been in our minds. Maybe today is an opportunity to think a little bit about our own mortality. For those of you who know me, I am not the person to make it too heavy, but there is a time and a place to consider the transition from our earthly life, shared with those whom we love, to our heavenly life, where we will find ourselves in the presence of God.

As a society, we shy away from thinking about our death. Yet, it is a reality that each of us will die at some point. Throughout the Christian tradition, there has been a variety of approached to ‘the art of dying’, which is not only about preparing ourselves when death is imminent, but a way of living well.

In the light of it being Maundy Thursday, I would like to ask the question what we would do on the last day of our life, and see if there is anything we can take from the way that Jesus did? Firstly, Jesus’ focus is on spending time with his closest friends and on leaving them prepared for the life that lies ahead of them. Then, he prays: for himself, for his friends and for the world.

This could be a pattern we would like to adopt as well. Spending some time with our closest family and friends, and making sure that they are well-prepared too. The most important aspect of this may well be that we reassure them of our love, again just as Jesus did.

We may also want to consider the world that we will leave to future generations. Do we endeavour to leave the resources we have been given to the generation of our children, or is what we leave a trail of rubbish for them to clear up? Do we see ourselves as stewards of this world, or entitled to whatever it has to offer us without thinking about the future?

Ultimately, of course, these are not only questions for our last day, but for each day. Living well is the best way to be prepared for the end when it comes. Making sure that others know our love for them is something we can do every day, just as thinking about the generations to come.

I’d like to finish with a prayer by Jeremy Taylor, the seventeenth-century Anglican and author of The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living and Holy Dying:

Guide us, Lord,
in all the changes and varieties of the world;
that we may have evenness and tranquility of spirit:
that we may not grumble in adversity
nor  grow proud in prosperity,
but in serene faith surrender our souls
to your most divine will;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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